Attaining good spiritual health

Spirituality is not something necessarily bound by religious beliefs, but can be defined in religious and secular terms:

  • ‘the quality or condition of being spiritual’ The Oxford English Dictionary
  • Not an intense form of other-worldliness but rather the heart of all religion and therefore of vital concern to ordinary men and women. …...that full and real life for which humanity is made. Evelyn Underhill, The Spiritual Life.
  • An attempt to grow in sensitivity to self, to others, to non-human creation and to God.
  • The practice of interior life
  • Our relationship with the sacredness of life, nature, and the universe, David Tacey, The Spiritual Revolution.


To some, spirituality is an internal issue. However, this can be viewed as an escapist form of spirituality. Indeed, the Russian religious and political philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev (1874–1948) called this ‘bourgeois spirituality’ and held that the division between spiritual and social life as completely erroneous, since he saw these two areas of human experience as intimately connected. He further concluded that a new spirituality was required in order to deal with one of the most fundamental problems of human societies, that of work and labour.

One mental health chaplain in the north-east region has stated that since 2007 when he took up his post, he has seen a ‘phenomenal’ increase in interest in spirituality across the Trust and now this was becoming their ‘core business’.

This is also reflected in the setting up of such groups as Newcastle Interfaith and Mental Health Dialogue and Spirituality in Mental Health North East.

The internet also brings up a myriad of sites dealing with spirituality and spiritual crisis. On the face of it, it would seem that there is a growing awareness of, or need to understand our spiritual aspect.

The recent financial debacle and scandal of MP’s expenses, has perhaps focused more people’s minds upon what is ethical and to ask the question, what are society’s absolutes? Looking for meaning within spirituality is perhaps one way of resolving this. For too long, the health of the population nationally and regionally has been defined in terms of physical and mental health. Perhaps it is time to also measure it in terms of spiritual health and to be aware of how policy can adversely affect it.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists explains spirituality as:

  • A deep-seated sense of meaning and purpose in life
  • A sense of belonging
  • A sense of connection of ‘the deeply personal with the universal’
  • Acceptance, integration and a sense of wholeness.

Spirituality emphasises our connections to other people and the world.

Spiritual health could therefore be ‘measured’ in these terms.

However, John-Paul Vader (spiritual health: the next frontier. European Journal of Public Health vol.16) stated that it is hard to find an acceptable theoretical or working definition of what it (spiritual health) might entail but did venture to include a number of dimensions that might be taken into considerations:

  • On the individual level: generosity, charity, solidarity, self-abnegation, concern for others self-sacrifice, self-discipline and self-restraint. 
  • On the societal level: manifestations of solidarity, equity, justice, sexual equality, unity in diversity, participative decision-making and power sharing.

The Irish Theologian Donal Dorr argues for an integral spirituality that can counteract the damaging effects of globalisation by drawing us to the benefits of global process. Spirituality says Dorr, can provide a new energy that is needed to motivate people to work out the strategies for change at all levels of society. Dorr says that for spirituality to adequately counter the damaging effects if globalisation is one that can respond to the spiritual aspirations of people at three levels:

  • The need for personal peace, integrity and meaning in life
  • The desire for respect, harmony, co-operation and participation in management and decision making in the workplace.
  • The need to ensure the business as a whole is making a positive contribution to the wider world –or at least is not involved in exploitation of people or the environment.


If personal peace, harmony, integrity, co-operation, participation, making a positive contribution is central to spiritual health and one’s own spiritual growth, how do we promote/provide the ‘good soil’ in which it can flourish?

It has been said that it is the person centred therapist/counsellor’s role to provide the good soil in which a client can flourish and attain personal, emotional and spiritual growth. By providing the right relationship, built upon openness, acceptance and being empathic, a safe environment can be established that encourages growth. By being open to the client’s spiritual needs and issues, the counsellor can enable the client to discover more about themselves and to embrace their real (spiritual) selves.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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